Despite “encouraging” developments, insecurity across Somalia remains a serious concern, James Swan, head of the UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), warned the Security Council, in his first briefing to the world body since taking office.
Mr. Swan noted the effectiveness of the collaboration between the UN and international partners, and the Somali Security Forces working with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which has seen areas near the capital Mogadishu taken back from terror group al-Shabab, and stabilized.
However, Mr. Swan noted that terrorism remains a threat to progress, citing the deadly al-Shabab attack on the offices of the mayor of Mogadishu in July, which killed and injured several Government officials.
Lookahead to 2020 elections
Looking ahead to the crucial 2020 election cycle, Mr. Swan described the upcoming poll as an opportunity to advance democracy in the country, noting that preparations for the one-person-one-vote poll, including a draft electoral law, are underway. He called for the empowerment of women to be a central feature of the political process and encouraged the Federal Government to establish a task force, to ensure election security.
A more immediate concern for Mr. Swan is the regional election in Jubaland province on Thursday, where a contested outcome could see an increased level of insecurity, which would not only put progress made in Jubaland in jeopardy, but also potentially undermine national priorities, including preparations for the 2020 elections, the fight against al-Shabab and the country’s development agenda.
Signs of economic progress amid ongoing humanitarian crisis
Turning to the economic situation in Somalia, Mr. Swan said that the Government has made “great strides” towards improving the country’s fiscal performance and strengthening governance, putting Somalia on the path towards economic recovery.
This progress is set against a backdrop of an ongoing humanitarian crisis that remains “one of the most protracted in the world”, with 2.2 million Somalis facing acute food insecurity, and 2.6 million internally displaced, fleeing conflict and drought.
Mr. Swan urged Member States to urgently resource a Drought Impact Response Plan issued by the UN and Somali Government, which calls for funding of $686 million. To date just over half of that sum has been secured.
Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, also addressed the Security Council meeting, briefing the delegates on her July visit to Somalia, during which she met with senior Government officials, Parliamentarians, UN and African Union officials, frontline service providers and civil society representatives.
Ms. Patten said that countless women and girls are subjected to, or are living in, fear of sexual violence. “Victims are often invisible and inaccessible”, she said, “with nowhere to report these crimes, and nowhere to turn”, in a country where sexual predators are emboldened by a “weak legal system”.
“Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to conflict-related sexual violence”, she added, “owing to deeply-entrenched gender inequality and discrimination, continuing insecurity, weak rule of law, large-scale displacement, limited reach of State institutions, lack of access to areas controlled by Al-Shabab and the recurrent humanitarian crises”.
Ms. Patten declared that as a direct consequence of her visit, The Somali Government has committed to work with the UN on an Action Plan on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, which will focus on the connections between terrorism and conflict-related sexual violence, and a comprehensive response to conflict-related sexual violence which focuses on survivors.